A cheery video of secondary school students from Bo in Sierra Leone taking turns to share their aspirations has received over 800 comments, 2000 likes, 500 retweets and nearly 1 million engagements on Twitter. The Video was shared on Twitter by the British Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon. James Cleverly, during his recent trip to Sierra Leone – his mother’s home country. His journey to Sierra Leone was planned to coincide with International Women’s Day to announce a new strategy to help women and girls worldwide. The trip was also strategic because the West African country has just passed the Gender Bill to allow a minimum of 30% positions for women across all elective and appointive offices in the country.
However, the trip also helped accentuate the monumental strides achieved in the country’s education sector, which has remained a cardinal part of the Human capital Development Agenda of the President, Dr Julius Maada Bio.
Among the kids featured in the Video is 12 years-old Mohammed Jalloh, whose dreams of becoming a lawyer were only a mirage ten years ago due to the previous government’s passivity to education. Today, young Jalloh has a clear path to achieving his dreams due to the government’s massive investments in Free and Quality Education for Sierra Leoneans.
Speaking to selected members of the House of Lords, Business Leaders and UK government Officials in London, Dr Julius Maada Bio shared his motivation for investing about 22% of the country’s budget in education, the highest of any government globally.
In his words, “If the events of the past few years have taught us anything, it is that people are far more important than any possessions or politics and that our success depends on each other. We have been starkly reminded of the value of those who might be deemed to be on the lower rungs of society worldwide. The workers who harvest our food. The delivery persons who ensure packages get to us. People, many referred to as unskilled.”
He continued, “In Sierra Leone, despite our natural resources, we have acknowledged that our most substantial asset is our human resources, comprised mainly of a young and dynamic population.”
“My government has always put people at the heart of its agenda. This is why human capital development is central to our national development plan. Our vibrant population is a great asset to sustainable economic growth and development. Hence, we made free quality school education for all our flagship national development programs.
“Since assuming political leadership in May 2018, rather than focusing on digging in the ground and mining the natural resources – like diamonds – that Sierra Leone is renowned for, our New Direction Agenda focuses on nurturing the potential of our children and then mining their talents to become productive citizens,” he said.
In Sierra Leone, the government’s resolve that investing in quality education for the future generation is the most valuable and the only truly renewable resource in the world today has gained global commendation from major development partners, including UNESCO EU, amongst others.
The Bio-led administration’s Sierra Leone “Brain Mining” company is clearly beyond political rhetoric or electioneering stunts. Under the administration, the investment in education has increased from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. These investments have been channelled towards supporting primary, secondary, higher, technical and vocational education and training. The government’s Free Quality School Education program caters to 2 million pupils nationwide.
As a gender-friendly government, the Bio-led administration insists that the “future of Sierra Leone is female” and has gone on to champion girl child education. The government’s policy on girl-child education yields tremendous results as many parents no longer resist sending their daughters to school, knowing that the government will pay for their tuition, teaching and learning materials, and public examination fees. He has also matched action with more action, promoting legislation to engender continuity in the sector. Reforms like the Universities Act of 2021 and the Sierra Leone Students’ Loan Scheme Act of 2021 have opened up more technical and higher education access.
President Bio’s famous saying, “the future is stolen from those who do not prepare for it today,” has kept him on track towards preparing the country’s young population for the great future that lies ahead.
With the support of partners like the United Kingdom, the Bio-led administration is extending the reach of the education program and completely altering the country’s future for good. The statics below gives a glimpse into what the future holds for this great country.
Some analysts have maintained that illiteracy and the lack of quality education remain the twin reasons the continent is trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, despite the abundance of human and natural resources. However, with President Bio-led administration’s total commitment to mining the brains of her young people, the continent may soon have one less country to worry about when it comes to illiteracy, as the government is set to return the country to the glory days of Sierra Leone as “the Athens of West Africa.”